An Historian

historical stuff by Gareth Millward


Students – do you count as disabled?


We’ve seen how the descriptors for the Work Capability Assessment have been poorly designed. Disability groups are currently in consultation with government over reforming them, and some changes are already coming online.

But what about the original descriptors from 1995? The “All Work Test”, the grandfather of the WCA, contains the following:

Often sits for hours doing nothing 2 [points]
Agitation, confusion or forgetfulness has resulted in mishaps or accidents in the 3 months before the test is applied 1
Concentration can only be sustained by prompting 1
Does not care about his appearance or living conditions 1
Frequently feels that there are so many things to do that he gives up because of fatigue, apathy or disinterest 1
Prefers to be left alone for six hours or more each day 11

Don’t know about you, but I think with some creative form filling most PhD students would be able to pick up a few points here.

Of course, assessing someone’s mental health and the difficulties this causes in the work environment is no laughing matter. It’s vitally important that the system properly acknowledges that someone’s ability to work can be seriously affected by these issues. But in choosing such broad and impossible-to-measure descriptors, the government opens itself up to criticism.

  1. Selected ‘mental health descriptors’ from the All Work Test. The National Archives: JB 2/30, DSS leaflet, IB214, The New All Work Test, April 1995, pp. 29-31.
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